In combat sports where the intention is to twist a limb in an unnatural fashion or bludgeon someone’s face, injuries are bound to happen, however, what is the best way to reduce risk?

A study compared three methods of preventing injury and the effectiveness for each. The training methods included were strength, balance and stretching.

The results show that strength training significantly reduced sport injuries and overuse injuries. Balance training did demonstrate a positive response in injury reduction while stretching did not demonstrate any protection against injury.

Here are my conclusions based on this article:

  • This is a meta-analysis, which means it compared 22 randomized controlled trials to get the results. Meta-analysis are considered to be at the top of the evidence pyramid because it means the results can be generalized to a larger population opposed to a small-specific group.
  • Strength training is an important addition to a combat athlete’s training schedule. You don’t have to train to be a powerlifter just add 1-2 sessions per week to compliment your skill training.
  • While stretching did not demonstrate a detectable reduction of injury that does not mean that it is not useful for other reasons.
  • The article used static stretching as a method for injury prevention. In my opinion static stretching is performed incorrectly and for an inadequate amount of time to have a discernible effect, but I’ll save that for another post. Stretching implies that a muscle length is too short and needs to be lengthened. Range of motion deficits may be because of other reasons, such as to tissue restrictions or hypomobile joints so generalized stretching will not address the original complaint.
  • There may be specific people who have range of motion deficits who will benefit from stretching to reduce injury but it cannot be generalized to the entire population.

In my next post I’ll discuss common risk factors that can predispose someone to injury.

Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Brown Belt
Former MMA Fighter

The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. (2014). British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, 871-877.